Nadal fights through
Rafael Nadal was handed his toughest test of the Australian Open so far, battling past a determined Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3 in three hours and 51 minutes.
Despite losing the first set, Schwartzman had served clear notice of his intentions, hitting through his groundstrokes, extending rallies and going after Nadal’s service games.
While his game plan may not have fully come to fruition in the opener, Schwartzman stuck to it in the second set, and that decision paid off. After three breaks of serve apiece - including one for Nadal at 5-5 and another for Schwartzman at 5-6 - the pair arrived at a tie-break. There, the Argentinian’s bravery was further rewarded, as he claimed it 7-4 to cap off an 80 minute set.
While Schwartzman was busy producing one of the performances of his life, Nadal looked a little below-par by his own stratospheric standards, and there was a whiff of a major upset in the air.
But the world No.1 responded strongly, breaking Schwartzman early in the third and maintaining his advantage to establish a two sets to one lead.
Schwartzman was in no mood to fade away, though, and he pushed Nadal to the limit in his first service game of the fourth set, with the Spaniard only able to hold onto his serve after fending off five break points in a 13 minute battle.
It proved a crucial juncture, with the Spaniard breaking in the next game before sealing his passage to the quarter-finals with another break of serve at 5-3.
The No.24 seed received a richly deserved standing ovation as he took his leave from Rod Laver Arena, but he may look back with some regret, having converted just three of the 18 break point opportunities he forged throughout the encounter.
As for Nadal, this was the sort of battle that may steel him for the tests to come, and the outcome meant that he will remain world No.1 after the tournament regardless of what happens in the coming week.
Trailing Jana Fett 3-6, 6-2, 1-5 and 15-40 in the second round of the Australian Open, Caroline Wozniacki had, as she put it, “one foot out of the tournament.”
But following her dramatic recovery from that perilous position, the Dane is now playing with house money at Melbourne Park, and after her 6-3, 6-0 victory over Magdalena Rybarikova on Sunday, she looks a strong bet to go all the way.
The unorthodox Slovakian caused problems early on in the opening set, breaking for a 2-1 lead. Wozniacki, though, soon settled into an impressive rhythm, and reeled off 11 of the next 12 games to storm into the quarter-finals.
“I thought I played very well. I tried to stay aggressive,” said the Dane.
“I got a lot of returns back, which I think for her was obviously something that she felt pressure on after a little bit. Yeah, I felt good about my game.”
Awaiting Wozniacki in the last eight is Carla Suarez-Navarro, who beat Anett Kontaveit 4-6, 6-4, 8-6 in a close encounter.
Edmund breaks new ground
Kyle Edmund continued his dream run at the Australian Open after beating Andreas Seppi 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 to reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final.
Trailing by a set and a break, the 23-year-old Briton decided to go on the attack, and promptly blew Seppi’s challenge away.
Finishing on 63 winners and 25 aces, he will now face either Grigor Dimitrov or Nick Kyrgios in the last eight.
Around the Grounds
Marin Cilic notched the 100th Grand Slam win of his career, beating Pablo Carreno Busta 6-7(2), 6-3, 7-6(0), 7-6(3). Playing in her first Australian Open, Elise Mertens reached the last eight with 7-6(5), 7-5 win over Petra Martic.